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Causes of wandering in Alzheimer's disease

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Updated: January 12, 2006

Improved Version Available An updated version of this article is available. Please view Tips to Prevent Wandering in Alzheimer's Disease.

Introduction causes of Alzheimer's wandering behavior
It is suggested that up to 67% of people with dementia will wander away from home and get lost. This results in major concerns for caregivers and local authorities. Wandering behavior can be a life threatening incident. This is especially true in areas where climatic and weather patterns are extreme.

So what causes wandering? It is important for you to know that you can help prevent incidents of wandering even though you cannot always guarantee total prevention. Nursing homes can more easily be geared towards preventing wandering but if you care for someone at home here are a few things to consider. If you are aware of the causes of wandering you can minimize the risks of someone with Alzheimer's becoming lost.

Defining wandering
What do we mean by wandering? The best definition for wandering is, "aimless or purposeful motor activity that causes a social problem such as getting lost, leaving a safe environment or intruding in inappropriate places."
Sometimes you will hear the term critical wandering especially in the emergency services and by medics. A critical wanderer is defined as anyone with dementia who has wandered away, disappeared of their own free-will from their caregiver.

Severity of dementia effects causes of wandering
Causes are influenced by a number of factors. Important amongst them is the severity of the the dementia experienced by the person. As the severity of the dementia increases so identifying the causes can become more difficult as communication, verbal and non verbal, becomes a more complex picture.

Article updated 01/12/2006

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